Minimising waste in school lunches

Wednesday, 07 October, 2015

The US Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program is the second-largest food assistance program in the United States, with federal spending of more than $11 billion per year. It is a valuable nutrition safety net for school-age children that provides free, reduced-price or full-price lunches to more than 31 million children each school day.

Currently around 45% of all food served at schools is wasted, with vegetables being wasted the most (51%) — even though it is well known that most children do not consume enough fruits and vegetables in their diet.

A recent study, led by a team of Texas A&M University System researchers, looked at the relationship between particular meals with particular vegetables. The researchers were interested to find how waste was affected when popular meals were combined with unpopular vegetables, popular meals were combined with popular vegetables, unpopular meals were combined with unpopular vegetables and unpopular meals were combined with popular vegetables.

The study found school meals paired with popular vegetables are less likely to wind up in garbage bins. The study was funded by the Alliance for Potato Research and Education and is published in the journal Food and Nutrition Sciences. It can be found at

When the most popular meals (chicken nuggets and burgers) were paired with less popular vegetables, such as leafy greens and broccoli, wastage of these vegetables increased.

Conversely, meals paired with potatoes — served as tator tots, oven-baked French fries and wedges — experienced the least amount of overall waste.

Does this mean if you want children to eat their leafy greens, you should make the meal pretty average?

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